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Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger Sign ‘Confederation’ Treaty

The military rulers of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have formed a new regional bloc, the Confederation of Sahel States (AES), following their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The leaders signed a treaty on Saturday during their inaugural summit in Niamey, marking a step towards greater integration among the three nations.

The formation of AES comes after the three countries, each led by military governments established through coups in recent years, announced their departure from ECOWAS in January.

They criticized ECOWAS as being under the influence of France, their former colonial power, and have since ceased military and defence ties with France in favour of enhancing relations with Russia.

The summit concluded with the adoption of a treaty that officially established the AES, encompassing a combined population of approximately 72 million people.

General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of Niger’s military government, declared the move as a definitive shift away from ECOWAS, emphasizing the sovereignty and regional solidarity of the Sahel states.

In response to the ongoing jihadist threats in their territories, the AES countries established a joint military force in March to enhance their defence capabilities.

The summit also focused on strategic cooperation in critical sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, and transport, with plans to integrate these areas more closely among the member states.

Another significant aspect discussed at the summit was the promotion of indigenous languages in local media, reflecting a broader aim to foster cultural and social cohesion within the AES.

The creation of AES has strained relations with ECOWAS, particularly following the imposition of sanctions and military intervention threats by ECOWAS after the coup in Niger in July 2023.

Although sanctions were lifted in February, the atmosphere remains tense. ECOWAS is scheduled to discuss the implications of AES and future relations at a leaders’ summit in Abuja on Sunday.

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